Unpacking “You Do You”

Unpacking “You Do You”

Love your friends, families, and neighbors by avoiding the tepid “you do you” response when you see them making poor choices. Instead of sanctioning their subjective whims, point them to the objective, higher wisdom of God. Remind them that it might at first feel like a constraint, but in the end God’s wisdom will bring “healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones” (Proverbs 3:8).

The Age of Authenticity

The slang phrase “you do you” may seem innocuous enough. Picture a large group of twenty-somethings sharing a dinner at a pizza restaurant, trying to decide whether to place one order of pizzas to share or let each individual order separately. Even if a quorum lands on a couple of pizzas that sound good to everyone, invariably a dissenter or two will protest, preferring something else on the menu. Rather than reason together to achieve full consensus (a possibly arduous, painfully long process—they’re hungry!), they simply release the dissenter to order separately: Suit yourself, man. You do you!

We’ve all been there—whether in placing dinner orders or deciding how to spend free time on a family vacation. Consensus is hard, especially in an individualistic culture where “have it your way” consumerism is the air we breathe. Sometimes it’s just easier to say, You do you, I’ll do me, and let each person go their separate way, like the modern family whose every member sits at the dinner table glued to their own personal device. They’re alone together; sharing the same space but living in different worlds.

Helping believers navigate today’s media-saturated culture, Brett McCracken presents a biblical case for wisdom. Using the illustration of a Wisdom Pyramid, he points readers to more lasting and reliable sources of wisdom—not for their own glorification, but ultimately for God’s.

Beyond these situational contexts, however, “you do you” has taken on a bigger cultural meaning. Defined in various places as “the act of doing what one believes is the right decision, being oneself” (Urban Dictionary) or as a phrase “used to say that someone should do what they think is best, what they enjoy most, or what suits their personality” (Cambridge Dictionary), “You do you” has become a symbolic phrase that perfectly captures the spirit of what Charles Taylor calls the “Age of Authenticity.”1

If on the surface it evokes the “virtues” of rugged individualism and personal empowerment, the deeper implications of “you do you” are rather foreboding. For in a fallen world where the “heart is deceitful, above all things, and desperately sick” (Jer. 17:9), do we really want to encourage one another to just do whatever we think is best? Whatever is “right in our own eyes”? Read the book of Judges—or countless other historical accounts of self-made morality—and you’ll quickly see this never ends well.

Biblical wisdom exposes many problematic dimensions of the “you do you” mentality, but here are just three.

1. “You do you” weakens community and fosters foolishness.

As the pizza-restaurant-ordering example above illustrates, community can be complicated. In an age when convenience and efficiency are high values, community can feel like an inconvenience that slows you down. “You do you” is an anthem of liberation from the constraints of community. The old saying is wise: “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” But in today’s world, going fast trumps going far. Thus, “you do you” prevails over “let’s do this together.”

This is to our detriment. Community is not only a gift for our sustainability (“going far”), but it’s also a gift for our survival, both in a literal sense—what infant would long survive without its family?—and in a spiritual sense. Whether we’re deciding on a college to attend or a job offer to take, a person to marry or a financial decision to make, we “go it alone” to our folly. We should want people in our lives to speak hard truths when necessary, redirect our errant paths, and grab us from the brink of self-imposed disaster. God puts people into our lives not to rubber stamp our every whim and fancy, but to point us to truth and offer wise advice—not to shrug and say “you do you” while we walk off a ledge, but to boldly say, “you should do,” even if it’s hard for us to hear.

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